Across Australia, it is estimated there are over 575,000 people who are blind or vision impaired, and over 66,000 people are blind.
So what support is available for people with vision loss? Support can come in the form of carers, financial funding from the NDIS, and assistive technology like mobility aids and safety devices.
We take a look at some assistive technologies available to help those with vision loss to maintain their independence, navigate around the community and signal for help in a medical emergency.
What is a vision disability?
Vision impairment is the partial or full loss of sight in one or both eyes.
It can be caused by a disease or medical condition, old age or an accident. Vision impairment can also be present from birth, with an estimated four out of 10,000 Australian children diagnosed with a severe condition.
What are the types of visual impairment?
A person who is totally blind has no vision nor light perception.
Someone who has vision impairment or low vision does have some ability to see, however their loss of vision is severe enough to affect their ability to perform a variety of daily tasks. Usually, it can’t be corrected to a normal range of vision with glasses or other means.
‘Legally blind’ is a government term used to identify people who are eligible for particular benefits and services.
Vision impairment is also caused by various medical conditions, including:
- Age-related macular degeneration
- Diabetes complications
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What equipment do people with a vision impairment need?
The support aids that an individual with vision loss needs depend on the type of medical condition they have, but there are a number of assistive technology options available to help navigate the environment and detect potential safety hazards.
These aids can also increase mobility around the home and community, making it easier to get around safely and prevent chances of injury.
Assistive technology can include:
- Mobility, identification and long canes
- Smart glasses
- Screen readers
- Medical alarms
- Hand magnifiers
- Braille displays and note-takers
There’s also a variety of applications that you can download on smart phones or computers to help those who are vision impaired to navigate their device and communicate with others. You can find a list of these here at Blind Citizens Australia.
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Assistive technology under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)
People who are blind or have vision impairment can access products and services they need through NDIS funding.
As a category of funding, capital supports help NDIS participants afford necessary safety equipment, home or vehicle modifications and assistive technologies.
Assistive technologies help people with vision impairment to perform tasks they may find challenging to complete, which further contributes to their ideal independent lifestyle. For those who have vision loss, this can include canes, screen readers and safety devices such as medical alarms.
Medical alarms enable the wearer to signal for help in the event of a medical emergency – whether they are worn around the neck, clipped to pants or on the wrist, they are an essential safety device for many Australians living with disability, including those who have vision impairment.
Medical alarms as Vision Loss Support Aids
Finding the right emergency alert alarm for particular vision needs is important, so having a range of safety devices ensures our clients have the freedom of choice to suit their lifestyle.
With a MePACS medical alarm, a signal for help is sent to our 24/7 emergency response team of trained professionals, who will answer within two minutes, assess the situation and call for a family member, friend, neighbour or emergency services – whoever is the most appropriate contact at the time. Our response team will also continue to check in until help arrives.
The range of MePACS medical alarms includes:
- Home Alarms, a lightweight pendant for safety in the home and garden
- Mobile Alarms with fall detection and GPS technology, conveniently providing reassurance when out and about
- Solo Watch Alarms with fall detection, GPS technology and health metrics to help you stay confident and independent
For Home and Mobile Alarms, there’s also a variety of accessories available to help people with vision loss easily signal for help.
- Vibrating pendant, which confirms a signal for help has been sent with short vibrations
- Arthritic sleeve, which increases the surface area of the button on the Home pendant to enable easy access
- Jellybean Button, which can be secured to a table in a commonly used area for convenient signalling
NDIS funding for Personal Alert Alarms
Personal alert devices like MePACS medical alarms are safe, easy to use and relatively low-cost compared to other assistive technologies.
To apply for a MePACS medical alarm with NDIS funding:
- Ensure that your NDIS plan includes appropriate funding under Assistive Technologies
- Contact MePACS on 1800 685 329 or join via our official NDIS page
- Our friendly team will complete the application and arrange installation with you
Having the right medical alarm for your disability or chosen lifestyle makes all the difference.
*This information is for educational purposes only and does not substitute for professional medical advice. For any medical concerns or conditions, speak to a health specialist.